Green schools are better for learning because they keep students healthy and increase their focus, attention span and memory. The quality of school facilities where students learn is often overlooked as a major factor in students’ scholastic performance.
- Indoor air quality: Students in America miss approximately 14 million school days per year because of asthma (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Controlling exposure to indoor environmental factors, such as carbon monoxide, dust, and pollen, could prevent more than 65% of asthma cases among elementary school-age children (American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine). Additionally, according to the Department of Education, more than 20% of public schools in the U.S. report having unsatisfactory indoor air quality. Carnegie Mellon University has shown in studies that there is an average overall health improvement rate of 41% due to improved indoor air quality. By improving indoor air quality, green schools can improve the health of students, faculty and staff, potentially decreasing sick days. With public schools relying on average daily attendance rates to receive federal funding, improved attendance is of particular importance.
- Acoustics: Optimizing classroom acoustics so children can hear is a primary foundation for learning. Many studies confirm the importance of low background noise level and speech intelligibility in maintaining appropriate acoustic conditions for student learning (Berg et al., 1996; Crandall & Smaldino, 1995; Knecht et al., 2002). A green school features acoustical ceiling tiles, lined ductwork and HVAC systems with appropriately placed vents, and therefore provides an environment that lessens distractions and encourages participation.
- Thermal comfort: Comfortable indoor temperatures enhance productivity and keep students more alert. Fresher, cleaner air can be achieved with windows that open or ventilation systems that provide a constant supply of air.
- Daylighting: When deprived of natural light, studies have shown that children’s melatonin cycles are disrupted, likely having an impact on their alertness during school (Figueiro & Rea, 2010). Skylights and large windows allow daylight to stream in, reducing energy costs and improving student concentration.
- Experiential learning: Teachers at green schools can use the building as the basis for project-based, experiential learning. Green schools provide a clear opportunity to connect students with curricula in environmental and science technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, and can serve as a tool for interactive lessons across all subjects. For example, math students can track and chart utility cost savings, science students can analyze and compare the difference between eco-friendly and traditional cleaning products, and humanities students can debate the impacts communities have on their environments. Every student can benefit from the opportunity for hands-on learning, and demonstrate the interconnectedness of the built environment and natural systems.